SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Chinese online video platform iQIYI plans to launch a talent agency in Southeast Asia to cultivate its own entertainers amid a major push to become Asia’s dominant streaming platform, a senior executive told Reuters.
The company, whose parent is search engine giant Baidu, announced on Wednesday it is partnering with Singapore entertainment group G.H.Y Culture & Media to start a talent management agency to identify and train talent in the region of 655 million and showcase them in its productions.
The move, which comes three months after the streaming platform installed its international headquarters in Singapore, is meant to launch young stars that would be popular with both Chinese and Southeast Asian audiences, said Yang Xianghua, vice president for international business.
“We’re already growing fast, with Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore as our highest growing markets,” he said. “We saw 12 times the user growth for the region in 2020.”
Simultaneously, Yang said that iQIYI’s Southeast Asian productions are seeing strong viewership numbers in China.
“Our goal is to be an Asian content platform,” he said, adding there were plans for more original Southeast Asian TV shows and movies, with teams in South Korea and Japan working on developing original dramas and anime, respectively.
A show on the agency’s search for Southeast Asian talent will also be aired.
With its young online population, Southeast Asia is becoming the newest battleground for streaming platforms, with video subscription revenue set to grow fivefold by 2025, according to a study by Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Co.
Other companies also have plans to expand in Southeast Asia. Disney+ launched in late 2020 in Indonesia and Singapore, Netflix has ramped up subscription-only services for the region, while Chinese tech giant Tencent’s WeTV bought in June the assets of Malaysian streaming platform Iflix.
iQIYI has lost significant market share in China to Tencent, but the two are collaborating on international productions. These include a Chinese variety show featuring Korean K-pop rapper and Thai national Lisa of hit band Blackpink, the type of regional star that iQIYI now hopes to nurture.
Yang said iQIYI was also in talks with Singapore and Malaysian authorities to bring Chinese stars to the region.
Southeast Asia is one of the heaviest consumers of Chinese entertainment content outside China, but iQIYI is also intensifying efforts in North America and the Middle East.
“In North America, our target is Asian and Asian-American audiences, while in the Middle East, we’re exploring the appetite for Asian content, but we see a big potential.”
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)